Getting your goods in and out of Cambodia can be a trying process. A lack of standardised shipping containers, overly relaxed transportation staff, and bureaucratic red tape can all stand in the way of a smooth journey for your cargo.
Thomas International is working to broaden channels and improve links along the transport chain. Established in 2009 – but with roots in Cambodia dating to 1999 – the freight forwarding company provides a full logistical package for clients to ensure that everything arrives on time and intact.
Thomas International has capacity for air, sea and road transport. Eighty per cent of products shipped by the company are textile products, and for General Manager Christopher Thomas, this is also the easiest product to ship due to Cambodia’s status with the EU as a Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) export country.
However, “when it comes to other commodities there are problems,” Thomas says. “Procedures that are standard in more developed economies such as Singapore or Hong Kong aren’t present here.”
Sometimes authority dealings are full of red tape, or paperwork is needed to fulfil the local requirements set by the local authorities.
Thomas International are trying to clear up these difficulties. “We have a very clear procedure,” explains Thomas. “For products like pharmaceuticals, the relevant information is required by the ministries regarding what kind of goods you can bring into the country. We explain to the customer, which forms and registration licenses are needed to comply with the local regulations.”
Thomas agrees that there are problems within the industry when it comes to importing goods such as food and cosmetics. “There are no standardised, climate controlled trucks for transporting perishables. In general, transportation equipment is not standardised as of yet.”
However, Thomas have implemented a system to tackle this. “We do some pharmaceutical transport from Bangkok, so our trucks needs to be dry and cool,” Thomas says. “We make sure that at the border transfers, the hand over is done in well-secured, shaded places like a warehouse. As we use subcontractors, we have to be explicit in what kind of commodities we are talking about and we have a monitor at the border taking pictures and documenting the hand over. The monitors ensure our customers that their goods are safe – and protects us in terms of liability.”
Logistically, freight forwarding is anything but simple. “There’s pre-planning, making sure that information is properly given over from the shipper and making sure we work with reliable agents in overseas countries.”
Often shipping doesn’t go as planned and Thomas must find instant solutions. “If a shipment was meant to leave for Europe but is delayed by production problems, we have to switch the shipping mode to air instead of sea,” Thomas explains.
“We need to change the documentation and agree on new rates and confirm the freight. Then we have to push the airlines to make sure the deadline is met. If shipments get stuck due to incorrect information given by customers, it’s our job to make the customers aware so they can go back and have these documents changed.”
Thomas International’s experience has gained them the trust of the National Museum, who work with the company to transport their ancient artefacts safely to exhibitions abroad – a confirmation of the company’s safe hands in the face of some serious logistics hindrances.